Alberta Diary: Prentice Government takes Alberta from boom to bust in one weekend, breaking all records

Premier Jim Prentice points the way for public spending in Alberta now that our boom has gone bust again. Oil prices, ya know… But read the Reaper’s grim lips: “No new taxes!” Actual Alberta premiers may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Finance Minister Robin Campbell, Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar and Labour Minister Ric McIver, three of the Seven Horsepersons of the Alberta Fiscal Apocalypse

Guess what, we’re broke again out here in The Richest Place on Earth!

Yesterday, citing the spectacular recent drop in oil prices, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice pulled his Grim Reaper’s hood over (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Alberta’s big problem is the same as Russia’s – so what’s Stephen Harper doing about it?

Keep those wells a-pumpin! Keep those oil prices low! Squeeze those Russkies! Uh … just a minute. … isn’t that bad for Alberta’s many varieties of Conservative? Below: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Mr. Harper’s hero, Margaret Thatcher.

The Globe and Mail, tireless cheerleader for the Harper Government, was gloating Monday about the impact falling oil prices, a declining Ruble and the bite of Western sanctions are having on Russia, which, the Report on Business rejoiced, is being pushed toward the brink of recession.

Woo-hoo! That’ll teach those Russkies to try to keep NATO (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: What the Fraser Institute’s numbers actually show, minus the spin: Alberta has a revenue problem, not a spending problem

The Fraser Institute: peddling conclusions that don’t match the evidence and have enough holes to store captured carbon. Actual Fraser Institute “fellows” may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: A piece of Swiss cheese, which may actually resemble the claims in a Fraser Institute press release, metaphorically speaking.

If the Fraser Institute told the whole truth, or if the mainstream media did its job, here’s the what the first sentence of the Edmonton Journal’s story about the institute’s most recent “report” could have said:

“Alberta’s finances are in better shape than other energy-producing provinces and states, says a report released (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: You could drive one of those tar sands heavy haulers through the gaping holes in the latest Fraser Institute ‘study’ of Alberta’s finances

A worker in Fort McMurray prepares to drive this truck through the holes in the Fraser Institute’s “report,” which claims Alberta’s finances are in worse shape than those of places like Texas, North Dakota and Louisiana. Below: The Norwegian oil port of Stavanger, which, according to the Fraser Institute, doesn’t exist!

Alberta should adopt a sales tax, according to the latest press release from the Fraser Institute.

But don’t worry, the latest piece of far-right puffery from the market-fundamentalist “think tank” – which prefers to refer to this bumpf as a “study” or a “report” – only advocates a consumption (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Three reasons why Ottawa’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program ‘reforms’ likely mean little

There’s always been a worldwide pool of skilled and unskilled employees like these fellows for jobs in North America – immigration. Below: Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

Canadians are within their rights to be highly skeptical of the long list of changes to the Harper Government’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program announced yesterday by Employment Minister Jason Kenney.

Indeed, we would be nuts to be anything but skeptical about this effort by the government to “change the channel” on what really is a national scandal.

First, there has simply never been any reason for a temporary worker (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Ironies abound in Alberta’s agitated politics as Alison Redford cranks up the postage meter

How Albertans should see Progressive Conservative and Wildrose policies and procedures. Below: The clever Wildrose Facebook attack on PC Premier Alison Redford’s faintly unsavoury taxpayer-funded mail out, which makes it look a little worse than it really is.

Am I the only one who sees irony in the leader of Alberta’s ultra-conservative Wildrose Party working up a full head of steam because the merely very conservative government of Premier Alison Redford plans to mail a colourful budget brochure to every household in the province – at taxpayer expense, of course?

After all, the Wildrose Party of Danielle Smith is effectively (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Alberta Health Services trimmers toss out a couple of market-fundy myths to save cash

Alberta Health Services Board Chair Stephen Lockwood demonstrates how to trim a provincial health care budget. Actual AHS board members may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: The real Mr. Lockwood in his official AHS portrait.

Two pernicious and slightly dissonant myths that cloud discussion of public health care are the idea that to get the best public-sector managers we must pay excessive private-sector style salaries and perks and the plainly preposterous notion the private sector always does everything better.

So it was interesting how Stephen Lockwood, the apparently cold-eyed and pragmatic trucking company executive from Okotoks picked by the Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Alberta still needs a “city party” – a role the New Democratic Party could fill

Typical Alberta Progressive Conservative Party members. Or, wait, are those Wildrose members? Alberta’s rural elite may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel. Where’s the NDP when we need them?

Here it is 2013, the Earth is about to become an urban planet, and the Progressive Conservative Government of Alberta and the Opposition Wildrose Party are locked in a titanic battle to win the hearts and minds of conservative rural voters.

What’s wrong with this picture?

City folks? As far as both parties are concerned, we’re Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Close enough for government work: Alberta Tories manage to hold their centre-right turf

Finance Minister Doug Horner preps Albertans for yesterday’s budget. Actual Alberta finance ministers may not appear exactly as illustrated – but that’s the trick, isn’t it? Below: The real Doug Horner.

All in all, I guess, you could make a good case this was a pretty lousy budget.

It’s deeply confusing, as without any doubt the Alberta government intended, and there are a couple of real disasters lurking in its pages – got kids in post-secondary education, anyone?

But in the aftermath of the Alberta Budget Speech read this afternoon by Progressive Conservative Finance Minister Doug Horner, who was wearing Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Alberta budget primer: when they say ‘tough decisions,’ they really mean … ‘decisions that will be tough on you’

Typical Albertans await tomorrow’s budget aboard the Good Ship Richest Place on Earth. Alberta may not actually be as damp as illustrated. Below: Premier Alison Redford. Why is this woman smirking?

Oh, we’ll squeeze you till the pips squeak, Premier Alison Redford seemed to be promising Albertans yesterday, as we nervously awaited the provincial budget that is to be brought down, possibly in flames, this afternoon.

Well, we’re all really looking forward to that out here in the pothole-riddled Richest Place on Earth, I can assure you!

This is different, of course, from the promises Ms. Redford was promising back Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Are Alberta’s cannily incompetent Conservatives quietly awaiting a ‘Bitumen Gusher’?

Everybody should be as happy about Alberta’s “Bitumen Gusher” as these two guys, your blogger and former Finance Minister Ron Liepert. Below: AUPE’s chart of the price differential between Alberta bitumen and West Texas Intermediate crude. Below that: The Alberta government’s chart showing its natural resource revenue projections to 2022, prepared for last month’s Economic Summit. Obviously there’s no cause for panic.

Have things really changed all that much for Alberta since then-energy minister Ron Liepert predicted in early 2012 that the province was on the verge of a “Bitumen Gusher” of unprecedented magnitude?

One just hates to endorse the Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Looking back in perplexity: where did all of Alberta’s money go again?

First World money and Third World roads. If we’re so rich in Alberta, why do we seem so poor? A motorist negotiates one of Edmonton’s famed potholes. Actual Edmonton drivers may not have snappy uniforms like this fellow. Below: Author, professor and former Alberta Liberal politician Kevin Taft, the cover of Follow the Money.

There aren’t many surprises in Alberta – at least if you’ve been paying attention.

However, apparently paying attention is something you can’t expect either the government or the media to do.

Consider the news in the Edmonton Journal earlier this week that “Experts have warned of Continue reading

Alberta Diary: ‘Freddy Lee’ Morton, the journalistic sequel: We’ve already seen this horror movie, thanks!

Freddy Lee Morton, in happier times, with your blogger. Below: Firewaller Tom Flanagan; the entire separatist 2001 Firewall team (grabbed from the National Post).

Freddy Lee “Ted” Morton, the worst premier Alberta never had, was back in the pages of the Calgary Herald the other day, bloviating at length about the need for brutal attack on public service salaries because this province’s frequently fluctuating principal revenue source has gone and fluctuated again.

Alert readers will recall Dr. Morton describing himself as “every liberal’s nightmare, a right-winger with a PhD.” He was also the owner of the mysterious “Frederick Lee” Continue reading

Alberta Diary: A Tale of Two Provinces: B.C. NDP and Wild Rosehip Tea Party show why opposition matters

Razzle-dazzle, sis-boom-bah, balanced budgets, rah-rah-rah! Danielle Smith and the Wild Rosehip Tea Party yell squad cheers for Alison Redford’s Tory team’s worst plays on the field. The actual Alberta opposition may not be quite as illustrated. Below: Ms. Redford and B.C. Premier Christie Clark. Why are these two premiers smiling?

British Columbia and Alberta, Canada’s two westernmost provinces, have lots in common.

Both have economies that rely heavily on volatile natural resources, well-educated, diverse and generally socially progressive populations, and Westminster-style parliamentary legislatures in beautiful old buildings.

Both are also governed by irresponsible neoconservative coalitions with misleading names that Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Welcome to Wildrose Alberta! What do you mean they didn’t win?

OK, the National Post got a little overheated with this election-day photo of Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith. But, really, what’s the difference? Below: Premier Ernest Manning and Premier Alison Redford, bookends in Alberta’s endless conservative governing dynasty.

In April 2012, spooked by the dangers posed by a far-right Wildrose government, progressive voters in Alberta abandoned the parties they supported by the thousands to vote for Premier Alison Redford’s Conservatives.

What they got when they walked away from the New Democrats, the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta Party, it turns out, was a Wildrose government.

By this, of course, I don’t Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Despite a lot of distraction, illegal political donations still stink up Alberta

Political culture in Alberta? Maybe not exactly as illustrated, but it’s still a problem for the Redford Government if Albertans see it that way. Below: O. Brian Fjeldheim.

OK, we’re all enjoying a nice quiet Family Day long weekend. This gives us an opportunity to look back at the interlocking illegal political contribution eruptions that until recently plagued the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

The past couple of weeks have been a busy time for Alberta political commentators, with daily events that might have been a scandal in some places, but somehow just didn’t make the grade Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Edmonton’s homeless shelters home to body lice, ‘refugee-camp-like conditions’

Alberta’s perpetually mismanaged boom-and-bust economy makes homelessness worse, as hopeful immigrants flock here in hopes of a better life, and find nowhere to live. At least this guy has warm boots. Below: Dr. Stan Houston and Dr. Mat Rose.

Welcome to Alberta, the Richest Place on Earth, where body lice are showing up on residents of homeless shelters, an affliction normally associated with Third World refugee camps.

Earlier this week, University of Alberta infectious diseases specialist Dr. Stan Houston warned colleagues in an email of “a very powerful health indicator of the kind of poverty we are seeing (and creating) Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Four-day school scheme shows Tories view Fort McMurray as not much more than a work camp

Public School District students await dismissal for the week on a Thursday afternoon in Fort McMurray. Actual students may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Edmonton-Calder NDP MLA David Eggen; former Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier.

And where, the good people of Fort McMurray should be asking themselves today as Canadians scratch their heads at the idea of four-day school for children in the Alberta oil sands boom town, is Guy Boutilier now that they really need him?

Mr. Boutilier, as readers with long memories may recall, was the Conservative MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo who was kicked out Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Sorry about what we said, Tom, but spare a sigh for Alberta, latest victim of Dutch Disease

These typical Albertans may be victims of Dutch Disease. Who would have thought just weeks ago they were wearing slim-cut jeans, ostrich-hide boots and nice Resistol hats like the people below? It’s pathetic, really! Below: Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, sorry Tom; Alberta Premier Alison Redford. All images just found on the Internet.

Who would have thought Alberta, of all places, would end up suffering from Dutch Disease?

Surely it was just weeks ago we Albertans, always ornery and lightning quick to take offence, were excoriating the likes of federal Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and then-Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Who leaked Alberta’s budget details? And who plugged the leak?

Some of the members of Alberta’s Treasury Board are pictured above. While not exactly as illustrated, they are all suspects in the leakage of budget details, in the office, with an email to the Calgary Herald. Below: Columnist Don Braid, detective Sherlock Holmes and Treasury Board President Doug Horner.

It’s a whodunit, a little like the one about the dog that didn’t bark.

Why didn’t the Calgary Herald create a huge front-page brouhaha when its columnist Don Braid ferreted out some pretty startling facts about Alberta’s March 7 budget?

Certainly, that’s what most newspapers would have done if their trusted Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Summit call for ATB Financial privatization sets stage for rural Alberta banking battle

The Alberta Treasury Branch agency brings rural financial services to Czar, Alberta. You’ve got to know offices like this are doomed if ATB Financial is privatized. Below: William Aberhart in 1937, the year before he founded Alberta Treasury Branches; banker George Gosbee, in his role as Doogie Howser, CEO.

Assuming at least some of the ideas put forward at Saturday’s Alberta Economic Summit in Calgary actually represent the Redford Government’s policy plans and preferences, it was extremely interesting to hear investment banker George Gosbee call for privatization of ATB Financial.

The sale of the former Alberta Treasury Branches financial institution Continue reading

Alberta Diary: The Progressive Conservatives and Alberta’s government: one entity, indivisible, under God?

Participants in today’s Alberta Economic Summit solemnly await Premier Alison Redford’s arrival at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. Many are called but few are chosen, and they may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Stefan Baranski, Charles Rusnell and Stephen Carter.

As befits an almost exclusively political event, criticism of today’s Alberta economic summit by the Opposition Wildrose Party prompted a harsh and highly partisan riposte by the Redford Government.

A news release issued yesterday on government letterhead over the name of Stefan Baranski, Premier Alison Redford’s communications director, accuses Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith of a “deliberate misinformation campaign” against the Continue reading

Alberta Diary: The real reason upgrading bitumen in Alberta ‘doesn’t make sense’

A bitumen processing plant near Fort McMurray, back in the day. Below: An actual bitumen bubble.

The government of Alberta is “desperate” to get the province’s bitumen resources to market, as its media echo chamber relentlessly informs us.

And it says it’s equally desperate to pop the “Bitumen Bubble,” the alliterative but misleading term Premier Alison Redford has coined to describe the price differential between bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands and easier-to-refine lighter crude from the United States or the North Sea.

But, given that, the Redford Government sure was quick to disavow the conclusions of its own officials when Continue reading

Alberta Diary: Is Premier Alison Redford’s bitter fight with the docs about money, or control?

Who’s in change here? Progressive Conservative MLAs get ready to supervise the work of an Alberta Health Services medical team while Alberta voters look on. Health officials, physicians and electors may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: AMA President Dr. Michael Giuffre; a space invader

Is the increasingly bitter fight between Alberta’s government and the province’s physicians just about money? It’s said here it’s more about who gets to control the health care system.

If you need evidence for this assertion, look no further than the fact just two and a half months ago Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said Continue reading

Alberta Diary: ‘Leading thinkers’ to set Alberta’s new economic course lickety-split – and you’re not invited

Premier Alison Redford eyeballs an uninvited visitor to the province’s economic summit. Without the password, you’re not getting in. Below, Premier Redford and Deputy Premier Tom Lukaszuk present their bona fides at the door. Actual Alberta politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below them: The premier’s communications director, Stefan Baranski.

In just 10 days, “Alberta’s leading thinkers, key industry, non-profit and academic leaders, Members of the Legislative Assembly and passionate citizens will gather together for a spirited discussion on Alberta’s future.” You’re not invited.

The government announced yesterday in a terse yet effusive press release that the economic Continue reading